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Fun With Lasers: Part 3 - Burning Things

The first two parts of this small series concentrated on acquiring and then powering a laser diode from a DVD/RW drive. In this post we get to the fun stuff - using the laser to cut and burn. I tried the laser jig I described in the previous post on a range of different materials to see what effect it had on them. If you are going to try this for yourself make sure you adhere to the safety guidelines I outlined in the first post. As we are using the lasers heat to burn through materials there is going to smoke and (depending on the material) some of it can be toxic so make sure that any experi…

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Fun With Lasers: Part 2 - Powering a DVD/RW Laser Diode

This is the second post about my experiments with laser diodes, you can read the first one here. In this post I cover adding a lens to focus the beam and protect the diode, building a suitable power supply to drive the laser without destroying it, and finally putting the whole assembly in a safe to use mounting frame. Adding a Lens The easiest, and safest way, to mount your diode is to use a pre-made laser diode assembly. These can be purchased on eBay for a reasonable price (just search for "laser diode housing") and include a heatsink, a mount for the TO-18 diode case and an adjustable lens…

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Fun With Lasers: Part 1 - Extracting a DVD/RW Laser Diode

This post is the first of a series about building a tool to simplify the production of PCB boards at home. I was inspired by this post about using diode lasers to prepare PCBs for etching - it seemed far quicker than the toner transfer method I'm currently using (in terms of active 'hands on' time at least) and the results seem to have a much higher precision. I already have a 3D printer so I was hoping to make an attachment to the print head that would hold a laser diode and use it to prepare the boards for me. The trouble with things like this that you find on the internet is that they canno…

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Digital IO (PIC16F628A)

This is another article in the PIC Tutorial series. In this post we cover the basics of digital IO on the PIC 16F628A chip as well as covering the basics of using the timer and storing persistent data in the EEPROM. Introduction This part of the PIC tutorial introduces digital input and output. We have used some digital output previously (the first post simply toggled an output pin to flash an LED) but we are going to look at it in a little more detail this time around. We are also going to look at some more advanced features of the PIC chip such as the built in EEPROM and the timer peripheral…

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PIC Tutorial

This is a series of tutorial style posts which introduce the PIC16F628A microcontroller and many of it's features. The tutorial culminates with an RS232 controlled interface board which can directly control two servo motors and two DC motors as well as providing a small amount of digital IO to the host. If you are only interested in the controller board itself you can simply skip to the last post. All the code, circuit diagrams and breadboard layouts are available on The Garage Lab git repository which you can clone from git:// if you like or simply dire…

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